Tag Archives: South Dakota

Western Adventure, Day IX – South Dakota to Wyoming to Colorado

Today was a sad day for us.

We got up early, hooked up the trailer and headed away from South Dakota to Denver Int’l Airport to drop Mike off. (That was the sad part.) The kids and I cried for a good half an hour after dropping him off. We tried to figure out a way to keep him and tell Randy, his boss, he’s ours until the 13th of June. But we couldn’t come up with a good enough plan. So we reluctantly let him go.

I personally haven’t been in the Denver area in over 15 years. I was surprised all the wheat fields were gone and replaced by businesses and homes. Fifteen years ago, you had to drive forty minutes through wheat fields, after wheat fields, before you reached the airport… not anymore.

The kids and I had no particular plans from the time we dropped Mike off to when we pick him up in Albuquerque, New Mexico later in the month. A bummer for us was the darn weather! It wasn’t looking good in CO and in NM. Lots of thunderstorms wherever we went. So with the help of Google maps, we found a nice RV Park about 20 miles from Colorado Springs. It was so far out of town, there was no cell serve and what WiFi we had was sketchy at best. It even had a nice big sign on the door, “YOU’RE IN BEAR COUNTRY!”.

We plan to take it easy tomorrow.

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Western Adventure, Day VIII – South Dakota at Needles and Mystic



Since this was our last day in SD, we decided to go to Needles in Custer State Park and then rock hound at the location the rock shop in Keystone had suggested we go. In the morning, Mike and the kids took a small break in the morning for Zachary to play with his RC monster truck. While the two of them were doing that. Nathan and Briana found some friends… a couple of horses.

Needles is renowned for some of the best climbing in the nation. Mike told me it’s a climber’s paradise in the Black Hills. The drive up to the top was a narrow road full of skinny tunnels carved out of the granite hillsides. At the top of the Needles pass, the kids and Mike had a great time climbing around on the rocks. A local climber was quick to come over and state Briana needed to be harnessed up. He went back to his car to see if he had a harness her size. Unfortunately, he didn’t. He had planned, of course with our permission, to scale the wall, hook up and let her climb to her content. He made sure to tell me to get her geared up and climbing. He liked her enthusiasm and desire to climb.

Mike used to climb before we met. I’m not much for heights, or better yet for the idea of hitting the ground. He did find good climbers in the kids. Maybe he can gear them up and take them up to Unicorn by Mt Rainier. I will take care of the lunch and take photos. The area was spectacular with all the granite needles and spires that abounded the landscape.

My favorite part of the day was the drive back down. Wahoo! What a blast! Highly recommended. The Peter Norbeck roadway is a must drive for anyone who loves to wind up and down narrow roadways. I had so much fun. If I had known about that road earlier in the week, we would’ve drove it a few more times.

From the Peter Norbeck Road, we headed up a small road toward a town called Mystic. We were told there was a mine with huge sludge piles full of rocks to collect. Sadly, we were led astray. It was a neat area, but no rocks. About two miles up, we came to a gate. The car in front of us had gotten through. Darn! Why not us? Then Mike came up with a brilliant idea. He had recognized he gate mechanism as the same on his mom’s gate. Since we had her remote, we pressed the button and wala! the gate opened.

We thought for sure we would find the sludge piles, but no, all we found were a bunch of vacation homes and a creek. Poo! But at least we won’t wonder what we might have missed if we didn’t get through the gate. Word to the wise, make sure you reprogram your gate to a special code if you don’t want the Zimmers coming through. Ha!

We made it back to town late, but early enough to have a nice dinner at Desperados. We got to hear about a few ghost stories and a few places to visit the next time we come back. And come back to SD, we will!

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Western Adventure, Day VII – South Dakota at Wall Drug and Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Our best weather yet! After my late night at the cleaners, we got out a bit late… noon time to be exact. Mike tried to take the blame, but he’s always a sucker for turning the alarm off and rolling over when I’m not willing to get up. Since tomorrow is to bring lots of wind to the Badlands area, we decided to head out that direction today. The route took us through Rapid City. Did you know the capital of SK is as big as Kent, our home town, in population size? Mike read 57,000 on the sign coming into town.

In all the free tourist pamphlets, it reads the #1 attraction in all of SD is Wall Drug in the city of Wall. No one was thrilled with the idea of stopping at a tourist trap, but by the time we got to Wall… we couldn’t resist. Between Rapid City and Wall, there were Wall Drug advertising signs about every .5 miles. Each sign had some catchy phrase and/or goofy picture… “5 cent coffee” “Free Ice Water” “Best Western Wear” “Homemade Doughnuts”, the list goes on. The signs got us so pumped up, we were excited to stop and shop.

I have to tell you right upfront. This place was a winner! We spent a lot of time here and didn’t get through all of it. Fun place! Don’t forget to go to the cafe and have their mouth watering hot roast beef sandwich. Literally, it’s mouthwatering. (I’m watering as I write this.) Don’t share it either. One bite and you will want it all to yourself. Briana proved that when she tried to share with me. Half of the sandwich eaten and she was wanting more. Zachary piled drove his so fast, I don’t think he breathed. I blinked and it was gone. And Nathan was in heaven with the real mashed potatoes and gravy.

The street front to Wall Drug has an old west flair and the building seemed much smaller on the outside than inside. The store is two city blocks long and deep of shop, after shop, after shop. The first place we stopped was the Western Wear area. The boys started looking at boots and ended up with other goodies. As Zachary was playing with the belt, the salesguy came in and gave him a replicated old west handgun to play with… in seconds, he was sold on the leather tooled gun belt and Nathan was sold on the gun replica. Mike was doing his usual perusal of knives. What a selection they had! Then he found the knives of all knives… the darn thing was almost bigger than his arm. I love how it made him laugh so. Toward the back of the store, it opened up into an entertainment area where it added to the fun. There was so much fun stuff to do and see. We spent a total of three hours in this place. At about 5pm, we finally headed out to the Badlands.

Not realizing what we were about to see, we didn’t have enough time. The Badlands are a sight to see with your own eyes. We could have easily spent a whole day here. Zachary was especially moved by this place. As we moved from view point to another point, he would have to be pulled to the truck. He would just stand there taking in the sights. He just loved this place… it was magical.

We found a friendly bunny on a walk at sunset. The bunny came up to the kids. We do love our bunnies. Our Mr. Buttons is traveling with us. He sleeps right next to Briana in the upper bunk of the trailer. He’s doing well. I figure by the time he gets home, he will be a seasoned traveler and can handle about anything. His favorite time of the day seems to be when she brings him down and he visits with all of us in the morning hopping all over the trailer.

Hard to share what is the best part of the day was. I can tell you the sunset was a total WOW! The colors in the sky, the moon and the colors of the land were breathtaking. Briana said it was the amazing view with the unique colored rocks with cracks and oddly quick eroding soil. She thought there would be barren land, but lots of life abound the area. Mike said it was the way the sunlight changed the hue in the rocks and the sky… how it made a magnificent rainbow of colors. Zachary said it was how quiet and beautiful it was. He kept telling us he wants a cabin there so he can just sit and view it all day long. Nathan said just being able to see it was the best part. It was beautiful. He was disappointed he didn’t get to take pictures of the sun setting. If you love landscapes, this is a must see!

We finally headed back to the trailer at dark, made dinner and got to bed around midnight. Tomorrow is to be another sunny day with a heavy breeze. We’ll see. I’m convinced they predict weather worse here than at home. I never thought that would be possible, but it was.

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Western Adventure, Day VI – South Dakota at Hot Spring’s Mammoth Dig and Mineral Pool

Saw these cute guys on the way to the site

Saw these cute guys on the way to the site

We woke up to snow. It was little flakes, but still snow. We knew today wouldn’t make for a good day outside, so we planned to visit a Paleo Dig and an 87 degree mineral pool in Hot Springs. We left much later than most; we were a bit tired from the drive and walking yesterday at Devil’s Tower.

We got to the dig site about 2pm. The site is an old sink hole that had filled up over the years. They figure the layer of limestone under the red Spearfish layer eroded away and the Spearfish layer collapsed creating an oval sink hole about the size of a football field. Since the water termperature was about 95 degrees, determined by the growth patterns of the tusks of the Mammoths found in the hole, the scientists figured the Mammoths would eat the grass along the edge in winter, fall in and then drown.

The site was once owned by property developer, Phil Anderson. While he was in the process of using a bulldozer to clear the land for a housing development, he unearthed bones. He graciously sold the land for what he paid for it to the nonprofit group who is excavating the site in a nice covered building. They figure it will take another 65 years to complete the project. They only dig for seven weeks a year and then spend the remainder of the year cataloging what was unearthed.

All 59 mammoths found are male. Most of them are a type of mammoth never known to exist… the Columbian Mammoth. They looked a lot like our current elephants and were about two feet taller than a Bull Elephant of our day. They have found a few Woolly Mammoths; considerably smaller than the Columbian.

What did we enjoy about the Mammoth dig? Briana said it was absolutely amazing because she has never seen mammoths and they were “mammoth” sized. Zachary said it was amazing to see how old they were, how big and how many different types of species they found in the hole. Nathan said he thought it was pretty cool. The Columbian were so huge. Seeing the actual bones in place was cool too. Mike said he thought it was great that something so important in our past has been so well preserved and available for those to enjoy and see for many generations to come.

Did you know Dairy Queen was to SD as McDonald’s is to WA. Yuck is all I had to say. I actually couldn’t finish my burger yesterday and Schatzy even turned her nose up to it. That was how bad it was. No good fast food anywhere. But of course, Mac, the garbage gut, ate it. Also, the poor economy was evident everywhere in SD and WY. Lots of businesses up for sale and many are closed. We planned to eat at the most highly rated restaurant on Google, but we found it too had been closed.

We made our final stop to Evans Plunge to enjoy a two hour swim. The pool was fun and was floored with river rocks. There was two slides. One that fell fast and straight. Another that wound around slowly… that is if you don’t have weight on your side, like me. I flew! The water was naturally 87 degrees. Very nice.

Tired, we headed back to the trailer. I washed clothes. Goodness we can go through the clothes. Finally got to bed around 12:30am. We plan on heading to the Badlands tomorrow.

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Western Adventure, Day V – South Dakota at Deadwood and Wyoming at Devil’s Tower

Devil's Tower

Devil’s Tower

The day was partly sunny and a nice 55 degrees. We headed north to Spearfish to hit I-90 to head west to Wyoming. On our way north, we drove through Deadwood in the daylight. What a cute town all tucked in a narrow canyon with only two streets getting you in and out of the canyon.

Mike and I jokingly were laughing as to why they would have a hospital, then we saw all the gambling retirees. Maybe the excitement of winning can put an unusual strain on the body… or the loss of their retirement to gambling?

We had planned on visiting the graves of Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok. Can you believe it? It cost money to walk into the cemetery? Yikes! No thanks.

We ate a nice lunch at Sanford’s Grub in Spearfish — good food and a fun place to eat.

The drive to Devil’s Tower was just as magnificent as I remembered as a youth when I traveled this area with my Grandparents in ’92. The grass is so green and the soil is red with rolling hills. The contrast makes for landscapes I just love.

At the gate to the park, Zachary found a girlfriend. She was quite jealous of us and shot him since we were going to take him away. hee hee hee. Picking Zachary off the ground, we continued into the park and pulled off so we could explore with the dogs and enjoy the view of the Tower from a close distance. We played around for about an hour and then headed up to the main parking lot to park and took a walk on the 1.6 mile trails that circles with Tower. There was so much to see and do between watching the climbers, climbing rocks and exploring, it took us over 2 hours to get back to the truck.

The Tower was formed when the ground was significantly higher. The Tower is a volcanic plug that was once located deep within a volcano some 50 million years ago. Over time, the surrounding material has eroded away, leaving the Tower exposed.

We did finally make it back to the trailer. Most restaurants were closed an hour before their stated closing times. We did find s nice place to eat this night at The Alpine Inn. The food was delicious and very affordable. We had three meals to choose from a Hot Dog, 6ox Filet Steak for $9 or a 9oz for $11.

Tomorrow’s weather is predicted to be cold and snowy, so we’re heading to Hot Springs to do indoor activities.

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